director Majid Majidi
Around the recent turn of the millennium, Iran was going through a new spurt in cinema. Dubbed the “Iranian New Wave” (every country’s modern growth is cheaply tagged “new wave” it seems), it featured a series of films by a number of filmmakers that embraced a type of neo-realism, often using non-professional actors, telling stories that were about the less well-to-do in society, often featuring simple, potentially metaphorical stories. I recall this already being on the rise in the 1990’s when I was a film school.
Like a lot of people at the time, I saw a couple of the films. I had a number of them on my radar “to see” but really didn’t get around to many. It’s interesting because it seems that that little window of time has opens and closed and perhaps evolved? I’m far from an expert on the subject.
I’d had Majid Majidi’s Baran in my Netflix queue perhaps all this time. I’d seen his film, The Color of Paradise (1999), and must have read about Baran when it was released. Sitting in my queue all this time, it somewhat languished, perhaps in part because in a list view in which the only information that you have is the title of the film, no year, no director, no reference to country, Baran can easily be confused as being a title of a film from any number of places and its real description fading in memory over time.
In this case, Baran translates as “rain” and is the name of an Afghan girl who poses as a boy to work a day labor job in Tehran when her father falls and injures himself and is unable to work. Baran is seen through the eyes of teenage Lateef, a smart-alecky kid whose job of taking tea to the other workers is handed over to the newcomer when s/he fails to perform in heavier tasks. At first, he is incensed and aggrieved with her, but then when he realizes that she is a girl, he becomes smitten and secretly spends all of his money trying to help her and her family.
It’s an amazingly simple and sweet film. There is a poetry and purity in the neorealism style, the efficacy of non-professional actors to capture a naturalism and reality so seemingly profound. Quite a beautiful film.